How to Prepare for Daylight Saving Time

One of the worst parts about Daylight Saving Time, at least for those of us who live in parts of the world where we change our clocks, is how difficult it can be to adjust after we fall back into Standard Time. That’s especially true if your body’s clock has gotten used to waking up earlier than it normally would during Daylight Saving Time since you have to shift back an hour and a half in order to accommodate this change.

Luckily, there are some ways you can prepare yourself before the time change hits so that the transition is easier on you.

Are you ready for daylight saving time?

For those who have struggled with adjusting to daylight saving time in past years, getting ready may feel a little easier this year. Here’s why: first, daylight saving time begins earlier in 2014 than it did last year—so you can set your clocks ahead one week sooner. Additionally, 2014 is a leap year; as a result, you only need to adjust your clocks forward by one hour once.

Springing ahead in March also means that your extra hour of sleep won’t interfere with your early-morning schedule on workdays when daylight saving time ends later in October. Put these new factors together and you have ample opportunity throughout 2014 to get ready for an easy transition into and out of daylight saving time in 2015!

What is daylight saving time?

Have you ever wondered why springing forward and falling back can be so difficult? The culprit: our bodies’ internal clocks. These rhythms are controlled by a small group of nerve cells in your brain, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN.

The SCN takes signals from sunlight and sends them down fibers in the brain stem that connect to other areas of your brain and tell it what time it is. It also sends signals out telling you when you should be hungry or tired based on light cycles.

The history of daylight saving time

It started with Benjamin Franklin, who actually proposed that Parisians could save money on candles by waking up earlier. Later, when DST was adopted in Germany during World War I, it was not popular with citizens; after all, changing a routine tends to be disruptive. But once Hitler enacted DST in 1941 (for a very specific reason), everyone else followed suit.

While there’s some debate over whether daylight saving time is more energy efficient, most evidence shows that it really doesn’t make much of a difference (although you are likely more active during lighter evening hours). In fact, many scientists claim that adjusting our sleep patterns can have adverse health effects over time—adjusting to daylight saving time could trigger depression or even diabetes.

When do we turn back our clocks?

While we adjust to daylight saving time on Sunday, it may be easier than you think. For one thing, several states are sticking with standard time year-round—so no switching back and forth between March and November. And it’s also been a while since you’ve changed your clocks. The last time we set our clocks ahead was in 2006.

In fact, when it comes to waking up an hour earlier, most Americans might actually prefer that anyway (depending on who you ask). A 2014 survey from Rasmussen Reports found that most people would like to get out of bed earlier if they could (although about half of those surveyed said there wouldn’t be much difference either way). In general, researchers say adjusting is easier because daylight saving time begins later than in years past.

Why do we change our clocks?

The rationale is that adjusting our clocks forward an hour in spring gives us a free hour of daylight during summer afternoons. During fall and winter, we can make up for that hour by shifting back an hour in autumn. The whole thing dates back to World War I, when Germany wanted more sunlight during its afternoon-centric meals (and preferred attack times).

No matter what time it is in your place of residence, try these five tips to help adjust to daylight saving time next weekend.

Tips on how to adjust your schedule

Adjusting your schedule takes preparation, but with a little forethought, you can make it easier. Start by figuring out when you want to be asleep and up during daylight saving time. The best way to do that is to create a schedule of when you normally sleep and wake up—and compare that against how much light there will be outside.

If there are more hours of sunlight earlier in the day compared with what’s normal for you, set an alarm clock 20 minutes earlier than usual on those days. Gradually adjust your schedule until you’re in sync with daylight saving time.

Research shows it might be easier this year

First, a little about how we arrived at daylight saving time (DST). The idea was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin in his essay An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light (1784), in which he suggests setting our clocks ahead one hour during the summer months. There are many arguments against DST and not just from those who can’t stand losing an hour of sleep;

For example, data show that DST increases traffic accidents and work-related injuries. Still, most countries observe it, including the United States and Canada, where it has been observed since 1966.

Spring forward with these tips

Make sure you get enough sleep, take vitamins and eat a healthy diet. If possible, cut down on caffeine and alcohol intake, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Keep your bedroom quiet and dark so you feel relaxed. A few days before you leave for spring break, set your alarm clock ahead one hour; after returning from vacation, reset it back an hour so you don’t have trouble adjusting on Sunday night or Monday morning.

Finally, since daylight saving time coincides with holiday weekends such as Easter and Passover, if you are traveling away from home when DST begins or ends go ahead and adjust your watch in anticipation of leaving or arriving at your destination early enough that its time will still match local time upon arrival.

Holidays and the effects of daylight saving time

If you’re wondering how to prepare for daylight saving time, first of all, don’t panic. It may seem like a nuisance at first—you may even dread setting your alarm early on Sunday morning—but it won’t take long before adjusting back feels more natural than setting your alarm late. The key is preparation: think about how much sleep you need and get it now, then rest up so that your mind and body can adjust naturally.

The more prepared you are when DST kicks in, the easier it will be. Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep during daylight saving time and give yourself ample warning about when you need to change things up in order to help yourself feel at ease with adjusting.

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